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dragonkid
02-10-2009, 06:25 AM
So, I’ve been querying my YA fantasy novel to agents, with mixed results. I’ve received some requests for partials and fulls (three for each are out currently), but I’ve also received some negative comments regarding my manuscript’s length. The novel is currently (brace yourselves) about 125,000 words.

Is this absolutely, no-questions-asked too long for a YA fantasy novel? Would I be better off cutting my novel in half (there is something of a natural breaking point at about 77,000 words) and querying the first part as the first novel of the series? Unfortunately, the main conflict is not yet resolved at this point – would that lack of closure be an immediate turn off?

Thanks for your advice, and I hope I’m posting this in the right place and format.

rosepddle
02-10-2009, 08:42 AM
Well IMO--and truthfully my opinion may not have much weight as I have not yet published anything--but if you have already had some requests for partials AND fulls then I'd say leave it alone for the time being. Certainly those agents who have requested more material from you know what the wc is from your query. And as for if the break at 77k could work as a stopping point would greatly depend on what other conflicts are resolved at that point. Is it an end to some subplots that will make the reader feel like they have enough to hold them over for a year or so for when the next book comes out, or is it like a cliffhanger?

Truthfully, though, as I said before if you have bites on it as is...leave it alone. For some agents a YA with a 125k word count is grounds for automatic denial but it's clear in your case that you've found some where this is not the case. Now if those who requested your ms reject you saying it is too long then you might want to take a look at shaving it back a bit.

Hope that helps!

TrixieLox
02-10-2009, 11:44 AM
Even if you'd had requests for more, 125k is a huge wordcount for YA. 80k is usually the limit. The requests to read more are a great sign but it sounds like one of the reasons they ultimately say no is length. You mustn't give them reasons to reject - therefore, if I were you, I'd shave off a good 45k.

But then I'm no expert! Good luck though, the requests for partials and fulls are a great sign.

eyeblink
02-10-2009, 11:45 AM
125k is 5k shorter than Cassandra Clare's first novel, for example, so in principle no, yours isn't too short. Always assuming you've edited it properly and it's <i>the right length</i>, of course.

TrixieLox
02-10-2009, 11:52 AM
Stephenie Meyer's 'Twilight' was about 125k too but these are rare cases. If you can cut it, I would personally, just to give myself every chance to get taken on but can see what everyone else is saying. Just my gut tells me this. Mebbe only cut it when get your 'final reject', if that makes sense? Here in the UK, if you look at people like Rosemary Canter's website, she actually asks for shorter M/S (about 50k) in YA so mebbe this is just a UK thang.

kaitlin008
02-10-2009, 05:27 PM
Maybe keep your current version for now for the sake of the partials and fulls you've already got out, but if these reject you, consider cutting it down. Obviously, there are people willing to read it even at its current length, but you might have more success if it were under 100k.

Danthia
02-10-2009, 05:45 PM
What will make or break a book that long is how well you grab the reader from the start and don't let go. If you've written a story that uses all those words well, no one will care. If you haven't, people would have said no even at a lower word count.

Be aware that a count that large is very likely going to give agents pause, so you may miss opportunities you might have otherwise gotten due to size. But if the query is great and the story good, they'll probably give it a chance. If you're getting page requests, then at least you know you have something working in your favor.

This might be a good situation where you send a few sample pages even if they don't ask for them, to show them your writing. If it's tight and hooks, then they'll feel better about taking a chance on a big ms.

Moonfish
02-10-2009, 05:55 PM
I am currently writing a YA urban fantasy which is something like 108K at the moment (far from done, likely to become even longer), but I am consciously building it so that it can easily be split into two books, of which book one at the moment is 60K and book two is shorter. This way I leave the final decision to my editor.

My YA fantasy which will be out in March is 67K and I know my editor considers it to be long, not too long mind you, but long enough. Therefore the split.

Chanelley
02-10-2009, 06:28 PM
I got full and partial requests when I was querying my novel at 140,000 words. I don't know how agents wanted to read that mammoth sized thing. But ultimately it was rejected, and I understand why now. I moved bits that weren't so important to book two of the series and made the plot more obvious. It's now at 91,000 words. I'll see whether I have better luck with the partials and fulls out now! So yeah, just wait until you hear back from those agents before changing anything.

dragonkid
02-11-2009, 07:26 AM
Thanks for your feedback, everyone! I have edited the manuscript (a few times) and I think that most, if not all, of the words serve a purpose…but I could also see cutting it back and moving some plot points to book two. To answer your questions, yes, two major subplots are resolved right before the 77,000 word cutoff – after that the dynamics of the novel change a bit as two previously separate character threads converge. And I have been sending the first 5 pages or so with my query, so that may account for some of the interest (one can hope!).

To give an update on the agent front, yesterday I had a short e-mail conversation with an agent who said she enjoyed my writing but was put off by the length of the manuscript. I asked her if she would be willing to consider the first 77,000 words as book one and she said that she would, so I hope to send off the full tomorrow. I guess this is always another option – follow up with those who show interest and see if they would look at a “condensed” version.

Shady Lane
02-11-2009, 07:27 AM
dk, sounds like you're managing this perfectly. good luck!

Stunted
02-11-2009, 08:19 AM
Congratulations!

nitaworm
02-11-2009, 08:44 AM
Whoopi!

thecraftteens
02-11-2009, 08:37 PM
Whoopi!

Goldberg! :D

ebenstone
02-11-2009, 09:37 PM
If Harry Potter taught us anything, word counts for YA are higher now, especially for genre pieces.

Toothpaste
02-11-2009, 09:42 PM
If Harry Potter taught us anything it's that once you are an established author with a loyal fan base you can write and sell works longer than average.

I'm sorry but I am so tired of authors always thinking they are the exception to the rule. Most often, we're not. Dragonkid has already stated that the agent was much more interested in a shorter version of the novel, and that what was putting them off was the long length.

At any rate, Dragonkid, serious congrats. And also serious props for the professional manner with which you have been handling the whole process. It might be second nature to you, but trust me, this is a rare thing.

SassyB
02-11-2009, 10:24 PM
I had a request for a full but was rejected. The agent sent me loads of helpful advice and one thing she said was she thought it would work better if I cut a third of it. The novel, an historical fantasy, was 92,000 words long. I put it on the shelf for three months and went back to it recently. With totally fresh eyes I see exactly what she means and have seriously pruned, cut and massacred and it flows much better.

Good luck with your submissions that are out there.

Shady Lane
02-11-2009, 11:54 PM
If Harry Potter taught us anything it's that once you are an established author with a loyal fan base you can write and sell works longer than average.

I'm sorry but I am so tired of authors always thinking they are the exception to the rule. Most often, we're not. Dragonkid has already stated that the agent was much more interested in a shorter version of the novel, and that what was putting them off was the long length.

At any rate, Dragonkid, serious congrats. And also serious props for the professional manner with which you have been handling the whole process. It might be second nature to you, but trust me, this is a rare thing.

TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH

IT IS HERE

adarkfox
02-16-2009, 08:49 AM
I'm hearing a lot of suggestions to splitting the MS into two books... I've mulled this prospective idea over myself for my 123K. Granted I haven't sold it, but I have not been told it was too long, but I was wondering if that was perhaps a undercurrent of denial doom?
Anyway, my real wonderment was which is more marketable? A lengthy YA, or a YA & Companion Sequel?

SassyB
02-16-2009, 07:14 PM
An agent I've been in contact with says it's a mistake to think of a book other than as a standalone when you are looking for an agent/publisher.

ebenstone
02-18-2009, 08:47 PM
I think that if you look at a lot of the fantasy that's on the YA shelf these days is pushing the 90-100k word counts. And I'm talking more about "teen" level books. There's no doubt that a "younger" YA would need to be in the 50-70k range, but as you become established, word counts don't matter.